Shitty Little Pill

You ever feel all tipped-over like? Rolling in humiliation of over and done and can’t take it back? Learned since then, but maybe it doesn’t matter because you clawed a hole in a wall that was someone and blood came out right on your hands. You cupped it and caught it and held them down so you could tip back in the gold of their life-flow, but it was too late. Your hands weren’t clean. You left them toxic.

You know, right? How you crawled away all wadded up and refuse-tossed, spit-upon, over-assessed and smashed like garlic? Bits of, cracked off, chipped, dashed, broken? You feel that and sit hunched, trying to drag in your ragged edges but there are too many and everyone can see because goddamn you are glowing, a freak-green neon sign. You are the frazzing constant crackle of the quivering mixed up dragging pain that arcs through your history toenails to now. You are flipped over and fried up and plattered for everyone to look at pick at dip into take from see you roll you around in their mouths and grimace bitterly.

You know you know you you are a shitty little pill to swallow.

At Home in Indiana

My MFA program offered me the opportunity to work with several amazing writers. I was pointed to text after text and told, “Read. Learn.” I did. The more I read, the more I wrote. I experienced the world through authors who challenged. Their topics were race, place, institution, thought… Every piece struck a chord with me.

Some works resonate on a much deeper level. Gil Scott Heron’s “Whitey on the Moon” (actually shared with me by my husband), is one such piece. If you haven’t read it, please click the link and read it now.

As I was encouraged to do in grad school, I did again after reading “Whitey on the Moon”. I sat with the shape of Heron’s work and considered what it triggered for me. Then, in his style (but without his grace), I put down my own frustrations.

I hope this is received in kinship with the struggles of race and class. Whitey on the Moon spoke to me about where we stand and where we are allowed to stand. In a time when many are shot down to prevent them from standing, and not just held down in the way Heron writes about, it is especially important to look back to see if we’ve moved forward at all.

At Home in Indiana

I once was laid up sick in bed
certain each breath I’d be dead
hallucinating nurses who would
wheel me through the walls.

I spent my nights in fevered shakes
Mornings though, the fever’d break
and I would think just maybe
I’ll go walking round the halls.

I left the gown but took the socks
at home I roamed the clean sidewalks
friends and family and strangers
gave help and clamored round.

And when I cried tears of delight
they told me it was ‘cause I’m White
that anyone would aid my fight
at home in Indiana.

I’ve never felt so color bound
except the days I was too brown
and everybody cast me down
at home in Texarkana.

What am I? This olive skin
in the Midwest I began again
they shrugged, “You are American.”
they took me on and called me friend
at home in Indiana.

Perhaps it is that I’m not odd
my skin is not considered flawed
is that the same as White? Not flawed?
At home in Indiana?

But White does not feel right to me
Nor Black nor Brown nor anything
You see, I’ve always been between
Since home in Texarkana.

Reach for Me

When night breaks into the house, it crashes directly through my ribs and pours in the memories of when we were children on a dusty road that lead nowhere. Nostalgia expands in my body until I heave with tears and hope and longing that you will reach for me as I reach for you, my sisters and brothers. Reach for me with the life we shared like blood, and the field we trampled to the pond, and the dogs on the porch that I hedged around nervously as you laughed, dribbling your basketball. Reach for me when your mother spread food across the table, enough for an army of children with every intention of slipping ranks and breaking the rules, and she cocked an eye at us because she knew. She drank her coffee and she knew.

I drift in our history at night: the location of your mailbox, the color of clay dusting my shoes, the kids down the road I hated because they could see you anytime, the horses along the way. The pain sears me because without you, I do not fully live, and when I think of you, I drink of you. I grow dizzy in moonlight or blackness, sloppy with the love of youth and you and me and us and our mothers.

How could we have been without one another for so long? For the love of God, we once came out of one home, our mothers practically two halves of one woman who, when together, felt joyfully whole. How could I have existed alive and not alive? How could I have forgotten that you are my mortar, my missiles, the sharpness of my joy? Sometimes I loathe that you all can have each other, even hissing like cats and spitting curses between the welcomes back to never-closing arms, when I can never truly have you. Not that way. Then I am with you and you remind me that I always have you, because what our mothers managed to forge was more potent than blood; it was kinship.

It’s not every night that I remember the ghost stories you told me as we tripped through the graveyard and your neighbor came to yell that we were a disgrace for disturbing the dead. I do not always remember the cadence or spark of your speech, or how every one phrase you utter holds more meaning that any story I could tell in my own, beautiful way. The most likely truth is, with time, this will fade. I will not look back at the pictures or try to text or send you emails. I will harden and dull and lose sight of who I am again because I lose sight of you. It does not have to be this way, sisters and brothers. We can stay close, keep the fire lit, and even when it burns us, keep each other warm.